Will a pohutukawa tree survive the Christchurch winters?
The cold Christchurch winters will impact the success of growing a Pohutukawa tree as they are a northern North Island coastal plant. But if you are determined to grow one, you will need to protect it from frost for at least the first 3-5 years of the tree’s life, until it grows above the frost line. However, even then a severe frost could kill it.
You may want to consider growing a closely related cousin of the Pohutukawa called the Southern Rata (Metrosideros umbellate) as it is more suited to the cooler climate. The Rata has lovely dark green, glossy leaves with brilliant red flowers (similar to the Pohutukawa). They typically flower from November to January (depending on location). You can see these trees resplendent on the Omihi Hills of North Canterbury and along the hills of the West Coast.
The Southern Rata grows slowly and if planting in your garden you need to think about the location as it can eventually grow to 15m high with an extensive root system. Look to plant young trees in the warmer months and choose a site that gets full sun and has fertile, free draining soil. When planting, once you have dug the hole, mix in handfuls of Daltons Compost and Daltons Big Value Blood & Bone to give the soil a boost and the tree the best start. Finally, add a good layer of mulch.
Another great bonus of planting native trees like the Rata is that it invites native birds into your garden.